I’m not a big fan of meat substitutes. This recipe was born out of a challenge I set myself to make seitan more interesting, rather than a burning desire for some kind of mock-meat! I had in my mind a slightly smoky, salty, gamey flavour so picked a few ingredients I thought might help achieve this.
First, the smoky. This came in the form of smoked paprika and sea-salt. If you’re not a fan of smoked food, you could replace these ingredients with their non-smoked counterparts. Although the smoked flavour in this seitan is super subtle!
Next came salty. I wanted to pick more complex, umami-salty, so reached for soy sauce and yeast extract.
Finally the gamey part was probably what I gave the most thought to. Coffee rubs or marinades, whilst unusual, for red meat are certainly increasing in popularity. It is noted for the gamey flavour it brings, so was an ingredient I certainly wanted to experiment with.
Adding to that were the herbs. Thyme is classically paired with meat – the woody, slightly spicy flavour is due to a phenolic flavour compound called thymol. Carvacrol, the phenolic found in oregano works with thymol to further enhance that woody taste. Phenolics are noted for their water solubility, so can really penetrate and distribute evenly through any dish with a high water content.
Meat-eaters love red wine with red meat, and it’s thought that the astringent sensation from the wine contrasts any unpleasant oily sensations from the meat. As I like to fry my seitan in olive oil, including red wine in the marinade made sense.
(Makes 4 cutlets)
For the seitan dough:
1 cup wheat gluten
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/3 teaspoon yeast extract
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the seitan marinade:
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
1/2 cup strong coffee (I used it fresh from my mocha pot, but I’m sure instant would be fine!)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon smoked sea salt
Combine the dry dough ingredients in a bowl.
Combine the wet ingredients and garlic in a separate bowl, you’ll need to stir it well to dissolve the yeast extract.
Mix the wet into the dry, and knead for a few minutes into a rough ball.
Tear the dough into 4 even pieces, and shape into ½ inch thick cutlets with a rolling pin as best you can. The dough will be pretty springy at this point, so don’t worry if it starts to return to its original shape a bit.
Bring the marinade ingredients to a boil, add the seitan cutlets and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Simmer uncovered for about an hour, stirring a few times to make sure the dough at the surface doesn’t dry out.
Remove from the stove and let cool.
Store refrigerated in the marinade until you need to use it.
You can slice this up and toss it in everything – sandwiches, tacos, rice dishes casseroles, the choice is yours. You can tear it up for a more meaty authentic look, but it’s pretty tough so expect sore fingers when you’re done!
It goes particularly well with other earthy/mustardy flavours such as mushrooms, capers, and onions. Spicy/fresh dishes such as jambalaya and other Creole cuisine are also another good choice. Fry it off in a little olive oil for a few minutes for best results!